Original article. Android breaks Linux rules say IPR experts
Violations put Android revenues at risk
The legal fire from Google's enemies is heating up as Android's ambiguous position with regard to key open source platforms continues to haunt the firm.
Claims by intellectual property experts that Google’s Android platform violates open source licensing due to misappropriating Linux code could create a bigger headache for the firm than previous Android lawsuits.
If the violation is proven in court, it could remove the revenue model from Android and force key applications to comply with the Linux license terms.
No suits have been filed yet, but Android's position in the already fragmented mobile Linux world has been difficult for a year. In February 2010, Android driver code was deleted from the Linux kernel, relegating the OS to being a fork (a variant that is incompatible with the main tree and usually rejected by the mainline community).
Now several experts are questioning Android's use of Linux code licensed under the GPL v2 open source process, as outlined by Jon Brodkin in an analysis for NetworkWorld.
Under GPL v2, free software must be redistributed under the same terms as the original license (the 'copyleft' rule), but this is in question when it comes to the library that connects Android apps with the Linux kernel, says Florian Mueller, founder of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign. He argues that Google publishes Android under a series of licenses that includes GPL but also some more permissive options like Apache (which has no copyleft clause), and even some closed source systems.
He also says that Google copied 2.5Mbytes of code from over 700 Linux kernel header files "with a homemade program that drops source code comments and some other elements, and daringly claims…that the extracted material constitutes 'no copyrightable information'."
Similar points were made recently by IPR attorney Edward Naughton, who wrote: "Google took a novel and quite aggressive approach to developing a key component of Android, the Bionic Library. That library, a type of C Library, is used by all application developers who need to access the core functions of the Linux operating system. Google essentially copied hundreds of files of Linux code that were never meant to be used as is by application developers, 'cleaned' those files using a non-standard and questionable technical process, and then declared that the code was no longer subject to the GPLv2, so that developers could use it without becoming subject to copyleft effect."
He argues the Android ecosystem would collapse should these points be proved in court. "If Google is proven wrong, pretty much that entire software stack - and also many popular third party closed source components such as the Angry Birds game and the Adobe Flash Player - would actually have to be published under the GPL," he added. "A fully GPL'd Android would completely run counter to Google's Android strategy…no more revenue opportunity for the developers of the affected applications, and the makers of Android-based devices would lose their ability to differentiate their products through proprietary add-ons."